EU vaccine rollout is ‘crisis of a century’ says science chief
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Tensions were on the tip of boiling over last night with the EU making a series of fresh threats to the UK’s vaccination programme. Britain is calling on AstraZeneca jabs produced at a factory in the Netherlands to be shipped to the UK.
However, the EU has rejected the demands, despite the fact Brussels has not yet given regulatory approval for doses produced at the Halix factory to be distributed within the bloc.
Yesterday evening a senior Brussels official said “what is produced in Halix has to go to the EU”.
They added: “The Brits are insisting that the Halix plant in the Netherlands must deliver the drug substance produced there to them. That doesn’t work.”
A senior UK Government insider warned a ban on exports from the Halix factory by the EU would be breaking contractual law, damaging the bloc’s reputation on the world stage.
“Contractually the EU know that we are in the right.
“We have demonstrated that to them,” the insider told Politico.
“If they do this, this is a terrible path for them to tread.
“We have had 10 engineers in Halix to get their production up to serve the EU and the UK.
“This is a vaccine that we are making available to the EU and the world through our taxpayer investment (over £21million in the research) in Oxford Uni at no profit.”
Unlike many of the Covid antidotes currently being manufactured, AstraZeneca is being produced at cost making it cheap and affordable for use around the world.
Last week Health Secretary Matt Hancock heaped praise on the drugs manufacturer in the face of repeated criticism from the EU.
Mr Hancock said he was “proud” AstraZeneca had agreed they would be “not taking a profit” from the jabs rollout.
The West Suffolk MP added: “Let’s celebrate what AstraZeneca have done and it only underlines how important it is for everybody to work together in order to keep their populations safe.”
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Yesterday, Defence Minister Ben Wallace warned the “world is looking at the Commission” and its actions around threats to block exports to the UK.
He said: “The European Commission will know that the rest of the world is looking at the Commission, about how it conducts itself on this, and if contracts get broken, and undertakings, that is a very damaging thing to happen for a trading bloc that prides itself on the rules of law.”
An EU official has denied Brussels is breaking any contract.
The bloc’s refusal to allow jabs produced at the Halix factory to the UK comes ahead of a virtual summit of EU leaders on Thursday where an outright ban on exports of all vaccines produced on the continent will be considered.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is this week phoning his European counterparts to warn them against taking such action.
The UK is reliant on Pfizer vaccines produced in Belgium for part of its immunisation programme.
Britain’s vaccination efforts could be deeply hit by an export block with a new report by the data analytics company Airfinity suggesting the inoculation drive could be delayed by as much as two-months.
However, the research suggested the block on shipments leaving the EU would speed up the EU’s own vaccination efforts by “just over a week”.
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